R200m for BCM to end the strike

Mayor thanks metro ratepayers, says he knows it comes from their pockets

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The brutal three-week Samwu strike against Buffalo City Metro is over – but at a cost of R200m, executive mayor Xola Pakati announced late on Thursday night.
Emerging from the last round of heavy negotiations, he released a long statement that ended with the declaration: “This means that with effect from this weekend, we will be restoring all of our services to full operation. We will work overtime to clean our industrial and residential areas across the city. Our call centre and our fault log lines will be fully operational, and we will be attending to issues of residents.”
But Samwu’s regional secretary Zolani Ndlela said the union would not sign the agreement until it was discussed by their membership at Orient Beach at 9am on Friday. He said the union was demanding that an agreed-on R10,000 per person “apology” payout should not be taxed. They want BCM to obtain a special tax exemption for it.
He and Imatu regional chair Leon Nkwenkwe said the ball was in BCM's court.
Thanking residents for their patience, Mayor Xola Pakati said he knew “the amount we will be committing to any agreement is coming from you as residents, through rates and taxes”.
While the vandalism and violence that characterised the strike deserves “the harshest condemnation”, he said, they had to find a balance between staff morale and implementing developmental projects.
The union and BCM had agreed on absorbing temporary workers as fulltime employees, which would create 365 new jobs at a cost of R61m more a year.
“This will see these workers getting the municipality’s contribution on pensions, medical aid and life cover.
“We have agreed that a bonus will be paid on Salary 2 with effect from December 2018, payable in the anniversary month of employees. This would cost R18m per year.
“It was agreed that implementation of the job evaluation would be expedited, with the first batch in December.”
The extra money to be paid as a result of the evaluations would come from the adjustment budget in February 2019. The new pay rates would take effect on 1 November 2018 “and back payments will be made from March 2019”.
He said the demand for the “ex-gratia once-off payment” of R100,000 per employee was rejected as unaffordable, but in the “interest of ending the impasse” R10,000 was accepted. “It will cost about R60m.”
“We are happy to announce that at their meeting this morning, both Imatu and Samwu accepted these outcomes of the local labour forum with certain conditions. We spent our last meeting with the union addressing the conditions placed by the workers in order for them to sign the final agreement. Overall the agreement will cost the municipality around R200m and some of the costs will be recurring.
“We are highlighting this figure to indicate the gravity of the decision and this explains why the process took time to be finalised.”
Negotiations went at a rapid pace on Thursday after three weeks of infrastructure arson, intimidation, unruly behaviour, destruction, littering and no rubbish collection.
Earlier on Thursday, Samwu’s seemingly untouchable status – no investigations have been launched over BCM’s strike damage, estimated at R100m by the DA – continued as the union haggled over the terms of their payout from BCM.
Pakati – negotiating under the Damoclean sword of ANC party boss and finance MEC Oscar Mabuyane to cut a deal by Friday or be pushed aside by a Bhisho administrator – had agreed to the R10,000 payout for each of 5,000 employees.
Also earlier in the day, Ndlela told thousands of employees at the Orient Theatre about the new offer. The workers said they would accept the “little” R10,000 payout but only on certain conditions: The money should be paid without tax deductions;
They were to be paid in full while on strike – there was to be no application of the no-work, no-pay legal rule; and
BCM’s court interdict against shop stewards would have to be taken back. In Enoch Mgijima municipality in Komani, Samwu strikers again ran amok while waiting for a meeting delayed by municipal leaders’ late arrival.
Samwu secretary Thabo Ngwane said a meeting scheduled for earlier on Thursday was postponed to 5pm as members of the mayoral committee had not pitched.
The union is demanding “harmonisation” of salaries of the workers from the three former local municipalities that were merged to form Enoch Mgijima.
“We hope to resolve the problem today if the employer comes with a date when they are going to be implementing the harmonisation,” he said.
While waiting for the meeting, workers rampaged again, ripping open refuse bags and spewing waste in the streets. They burnt tyres in Owen Street, Robinson Road and the CBD. Enoch Mgijima mayoral officer manager Butsha Lali confirmed the meeting was scheduled for 5pm...

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